Fruit and vegetable consumption in the United States is dropping to surprisingly low percentages, with only 14% of Americans eating enough fruits and vegetables every day. Even smaller than this, less than 10% of children are eating the fruits and vegetables they need to be healthy and strong.
Instead of getting discouraged by these statistics, focus on the positives of increasing the fruit and vegetable intake of your children! These simple steps will lead your children to live healthy lives.
Wondering how much fruit and veggies your kids should eat? Here is the perfect guide to a balanced diet:
Also, as a general rule for your whole family, focus on eating double the quantity of vegetables to fruits.
So what is the proper serving size?
For fruit: 1 serving size is 1 medium apple, banana or orange, or ½ cup of chopped fruit. For vegetables: 1 cup of raw leafy greens or ½ cup of chopped vegetables.
Why is it vital that we eat so much plant food?
Fruit and vegetables are the perfect source for fiber, which keeps our digestive systems healthy, regulates our blood sugars, and keeps our cholesterol levels down. Fiber has also been linked to reducing the risk of cancer, therefore providing longer life expectancy. Fiber also feeds the good bacteria in our gut which can in turn improve immune function and boost serotonin levels (the happy hormone). Click here to find out more about fiber.
Water soluble vitamins are vital for our health, and fruit and vegetables provide another perfect source for it. They are powerful antioxidants which helps keep the immune system strong. Another benefit to fruits and vegetables is their high source of minerals. Calcium keeps bones and teeth strong, magnesium and potassium give strength to muscle functioning and development, and iron helps carry oxygen throughout the body.
Fruit and vegetables contain phytonutrients. Phytonutrients give fruit and veggies their color and have powerful antioxidant and anti inflammatory effects. Phytonutrients are the reason we are told to eat the rainbow.
So how do I get my kids to eat their fruit and veggies? Here are 13 simple steps I have used on my own children…
- Make fruit salads
- Add vegetables, greens and fruit to smoothies (we will be featuring some great vegetable smoothie recipes in the next few blog posts)
- Serve salads daily
- Hide vegetables in your kids’ favorite foods – it is amazing how well grated zucchini can be hid in foods!!
- Make soups
- Have fruit for dessert or snacks
- Serve raw veggies with a yummy dip when they come home from school
- Buy precut vegetables from your local supermarket if you don’t have time to prepare your own
- Serve in season fruit and vegetables- they taste better and are also cheaper
- Include fruit and vegetables in every meal
- Add fruit to unsweetened greek yogurt for breakfast or a snack
- Try different fruit and vegetables on their toast
- Make a fruit and vegetable reward chart so your kids stay motivated while eating healthy!
Watch out for loads of kid approved vegetable recipes in our next few blog posts!